Archive for September, 2014

The woes of the woman wannabe.

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

There was an interesting complaint the other day by a reporter that women cannot get elected mayor in Toronto. The complaint was that polls tend to show that while current candidate Olivia Chow might be well supported by woman voters, she loses when you add in the male voters in the poll. The writer goes on to say that no woman can do well municipally in the city since Toronto was amalgamated.

Bunk! All Toronto needs to see as a successful woman candidate is a woman candidate who is worth electing and understands the challenges involved. Exit polls on the October 27 election will show Olivia Chow doing about as well with men as she will with women. The common factor with these voters will be that they are predominantly downtown voters who usually vote for the New Democrats. That is her base vote and it is simply not large enough to beat John Tory. (Besides, women tell pollsters they are backing a woman candidate because they think it looks better.)

The reason Councillor Karen Stintz bowed out of the mayoralty campaign was that she lacked any political base. While obviously right-wing and an earlier Rob Ford supporter, she has never built a base of Conservative or Liberal support.

The reason Doug Ford will lose is that his Conservative base is confused with the Ford Nation label. Ford Nation is an aberration similar to the American Tea Party. These are political extremists of the right, supported by the angry and the losers. They are an embarrassment to the more centrist Conservative supporters of John Tory.

What everyone is reaching for in this Toronto mayoralty campaign is the sizeable Liberal vote that is up for grabs. It is obvious to anyone who knows Toronto’s Liberals that by far the majority have already swung behind Tory. He does not share the ideological stridency of Prime Minister Stephen Harper or former provincial Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. He is a businessman with the ability to negotiate for the city. He can probably run it well.

That is something Olivia Chow cannot do. Try as you will, nobody can show any initiative by Chow as a former councillor or MP that indicates any leadership skills. If she was serious about her political career, she would have had voice training by now to smooth her stilted manner of speaking. She lacked any control of her supporters in the beginning of her campaign and we watched her early lead go nowhere.

There is a great deal of prestige to the job of mayor of Canada’s largest and most vibrant city. The voters should think long and hard about that before voting willy-nilly for some mythical ‘gravy train.’

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

The Hair prefers ‘presidential’ powers.

Friday, September 19th, 2014

What a bother! That fussy Mr. Mulcair is making trouble for the Hair again. He wants Canada’s Prime Minister to ask parliament for permission to send troops to Iraq. It seems a lot of bother for a matter of just 69 soldiers going to the aid of Canada’s friends in Kurdistan and Iraq. After all, the Hair’s buddy, American President Barack Obama, has the power to send help to the Iraq government without calling Congress together to discuss the plans.

But Canada has a different system of government. The Americans have a republic wherein the President heads the administration and has substantial executive powers. He has to also deal with a bicameral Congress that controls taxation. Canada has a parliamentary system of government where parliament is the ultimate authority. As much as the Hair gets frustrated with the constraints of reporting to parliament, he is not brave enough to call a constitutional congress to change how Canadians are governed. Hell, he would have enough problems with his own party if he tried that.

And as much as the Hair tries to ignore that fussy little Mr. Mulcair, the gentleman is the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and he has the responsibility to call on the Prime Minister of the day to account to parliament. It is much more fun for the Hair to belittle the leader of the third party in parliament, that flighty Mr. Trudeau. The only problem with that is that public opinion polls, as useless and as inconsistent as they might be, are telling him that if an election were called today, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is likely to become Prime Minister.

So what is the Hair to do? He can hardly keep proroguing parliament every time he is pissed with the questions and heckling he gets there. There are news media people sitting there and reporting on his intransigence. He can hardly bully all the media owners to sit on such a good running story. Maybe Bell Canada will listen to him but that company is in danger of a revolt by the CTV News Department. The media people are all waiting gleefully for Senator Mike Duffy’s story of his bribe from the Hair’s Chief of Staff to be told in Ontario’s provincial courts.

The reality is though that Canada’s parliamentary system is not as rigid as the American congressional system. It has lots more flexibility. And the Hair has always been a rapt student of the loopholes and side doors of our parliament. It is as simple as considering the right of Mr. Mulcair or even Mr. Trudeau asking him a question in parliament. They certainly have the right to ask questions. Nowhere in the rules though does it have any penalties for failing to answer them.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Hailing the Hair’s homecoming.

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

They were all in Ottawa for the opening of parliament. They were the Conservative Commons and Senate parliamentarians, the Prime Minister’s and ministerial staffs, MPs’ and Senators’ staffs, local Conservative Party members and their guests. They were all there to welcome home the Hair.

But they were not in the parliament buildings. The Hair detests parliament. It is a bother for him. People stand in parliament and criticize him. They do not recognize the greatness that the Hair sees in his vision of Canada. They ask long and boring questions. There is the tedium of votes.

The Hair prefers to talk to these loyal supporters as though he is the laird responding to the fealty of his household staff. He has journeyed far for them. He has dealt with worldly problems and concerns. He can report his successes. He can speak with benevolence. In a large room in a conference centre draped with large Canadian flags he reported on his successes and launched his party into a year-long election campaign.

God help us, he set his sights on a Conservative victory in 2015. Who else would he expect to be given control of the Canadian economy? He also stands for retribution for criminals, consumer rights, stamping out prostitution and solving the world’s problems.

The Hair spoke of the strengths he and his loyal followers are going to take into this campaign. He believes in his foreign policy, such as it is. He continues to pander to the Canadian Jewish community and our country’s voters of Ukrainian extraction. And he continues to stand ready to sign any so-called free trade deal anyone puts before him. He thinks this is statesman-like.

The Hair told his sycophants that they will need to make short work of the upcoming work of parliament this fall. He wants to be ready for a self-aggrandizing throne speech and a laudatory budget in the New Year. This will continue his theme of tax cuts and smaller government while catering to the oppressive priorities of his Conservatives.

The Hair managed to go through all of this foolishness as though he was a farmer spreading manure on his fields. His hand picked audience appeared to have bought it.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Blowing the whistle on the Fraser Institute.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Fair’s fair. Babel-on-the-Bay would like to file a complaint with the Canada Revenue Agency. The complaint is against the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute and its offices in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. This pseudo think-tank enterprise has been found to be biased and one-sided. It is more of an unthinking-tank as it has a clear bias on its research subjects and seems to only hire researchers prepared to support that bias.

What has brought about this demand for retribution is the outrageous treatment of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Canada Revenue Agency is harassing the centre with an unnecessary and vindictive audit. The agency has not told us who made the complaint. The Centre for Policy Alternatives is a think tank that actually encourages thinking. It is honest about its bias. It is concerned about people and their needs. It appears to be left wing because the policy alternatives it studies are alternatives to right-wing government action and, in many cases, inaction.

Have you ever seen a more obvious prejudice than auditing the Centre for Policy Alternatives and not the Fraser Institute? This is trashing the reputation for fairness earned over many years by Canada’s revenue agency. It makes the agency look like some kind of lackey for the Harper Conservatives.

And what is enraging academics across Canada is that it is obvious that the Harper government is using the government agency to carry out a partisan political agenda. If the agency cannot stand up on its hind legs and say ‘No,’ it is only hurting its own reputation with Canadians. It is obvious that the Conservatives have expanded their vendetta that was originally just against environmentalists and scientists to any people who do not think like them.

What is particularly wrong is that the Conservative government has given the CRA a special budget of $13.4 million to harass specific charities that appear to be targeting Conservative policies. These include the lack of environmental policies related to the exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta, the promotion of pipelines to move bitumen and now general policies that are impacting Canadian citizens.

A letter demanding an end to this practice of advocacy-chill was signed recently by more than 400 Canadian academics. They want this form of intimidation to stop.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Ontario sucks and blows on gaming.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

When it comes to gaming, the Wynne government in Ontario definitely sucks! According to a confusing op-ed in the Toronto Star Monday by former McGuinty cabinet member Michael Bryant, he reports that the Liberals are sucking and blowing at the same time. Yet when you get to the end of his piece, you find that Bryant is promoting his current business in addiction.

That puts Bryant in conflict with his subject. How do you sell addiction solutions without a ready supply of addicts? Frankly, the Ontario government is doing a lousy job of creating gaming addicts. Gaming in Ontario is badly run, unevenly available and definitely lower class. Other than thoroughbred racing with its patina of style and class, people tend to look down their noses at gambling and the addicts it creates.

In desperation with the flattening revenues of gaming for the province, the Wynne Liberals floated the suggestion recently that Bell Canada and Rogers might take over the lottery business for the province. If that did not scare hell out of the serious lottery player, nothing else will. Have you ever tried to communicate with those companies when they owe you money? Yet if you owe them, they will be on you like flies on a warm cow pad. These companies lack the friendly, unctuous vibes needed in the lottery business.

And obviously Ontario Lottery and Gaming has absolutely no understanding of distribution needs to serve the public in Ontario. Casino resorts in Ontario are a sad joke. While there was a tourism cover for the original casinos, it is the people of Ontario who are ill-served. To not have a casino in the Toronto area is paternalistic and stupid. If ignorant city councillors do not want a casino, they should get the money for transit from their ratepayers themselves.

What nobody seems to understand about gambling addictions is that there are many opportunities, both public and private, for the gambling addict to exercise their addiction. It is like the alcoholic who can always seem to find a drink or the drug addict finding a pusher. From the bingo games in church halls, friendly poker games in a neighbour’s rec room, to office pools, we gamble. It is human. Sometimes we get a harsh lesson and in the very occasional circumstance we can get a pleasant surprise. That is what gaming involves. It is a favourite form of entertainment. And it is fun.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Who convinced Trudeau to look democratic?

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Wow. When you read the Liberal.ca website now it looks like Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau invented party democracy. It not only says he believes in party democracy but he is working to assure Liberal Party members of open nominations. He seems to not only be recanting his heavy-handed approach in the recent Trinity-Spadina by-election in Toronto but maybe he expects us to pretend it never happened.

But we should not let him off the hook for just some well chosen words. We still have to see some positive action. We still have to get the heavy hand of the party off the so-called “green-light” process of nominating candidates. Winning a battle is not resolving the war.

Many Liberals believe that the power to vet candidates belongs at the electoral district level. Maybe the local party could ask for assistance if it does not have all the resources needed to check credentials but the decision has to be made by the riding executive. The names of those who sign the nomination papers for a candidate for example, tells the local executive a great deal about a candidate. The meaning of the names is lost on senior levels of the party. Senior levels look at candidates in a different manner than the local party executive.

The truth is that truly democratic nominations can change the face of the party. They bring in more people, new ideas and changing demographics. They create greater volatility and sometimes some tensions. They accommodate the occasional maverick and create challenges for the party leadership.

But without the challenges within a Canadian political party, it fails to grow and evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing population. The needs and desires of Canadians will always change as they process through the cycles of aging, maturing and renewing. We are human and not static. Our wishes and needs evolve and our politics have to be able to change and evolve to meet those needs.

And it is liberalism ahead of all other political movements that can best meet these societal fluxes. The ideologues of the right and left of politics are hide-bound in comparison. Only liberalism has the flexibility to seek the constant renewal of ideas and solutions to meet societal change. Our liberalism requires the freedom to grow with the changes.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Conservative Oliver uses gifts not incentives.

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Say what you like about Federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver but he is certainly proving that he is not the brightest bulb to ever hold that portfolio in Ottawa. In fact, Oliver might just embarrass the Harper government right out of office next year. It was his opening salvo in goodies for next year’s election that showed Canadians that he has no idea of how to motivate business with taxation for job creation. He does not understand that there is a serious difference between a gift and an incentive.

And this is all about a matter of 28 cents. That is the amount that Oliver intends to cut from Employment Insurance premiums per $100 in insurable earnings for employees of small business. And this is only for in the fiscal years of 2015 and 2016. Oliver thinks it will save small business about $250 million per year for each of those years.

What would have made better sense would have been a much larger cut in premiums for all additional employees added over the next two years. That is job creation. That is how government should use business tax incentives. What Oliver is offering is just a present to people who want to take more money out of their business.

But what do you expect from a bunch of ideologues. They only offer gifts. Using an incentive to motivate their business friends to do something for the economy is a completely foreign idea. To them, business is good old Sam or Harry who runs a business and gives them money to support their re-election. This party wants to do something for their friends. They would never think of restricting these gratuitous gifts to those who did something for Canadians.

What is going to happen though is that the recipients of this gift from the Conservatives are going to do the mathematics themselves. With only about 40 per cent of employees eligible for Employment Insurance and this saving of $190 per eligible employee, it will mean a maximum of $2200 to any one business. If the Conservatives want to pay a bribe for this writer’s vote, they should be warned. It will cost much more than $2200,

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Toronto: What Model Ford do you want?

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

It is hard to believe all the mealy-mouthed concern about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s health. Under their breath many of these hypocrites are saying: “Look’s good on you fatso!’

But never fear Torontonians, there is a model ‘T’ (for Toronto) Ford just for you. For mayor, your option is now a Douglas Ford. This is the older, taller version of Ford who was supposed to be the brains behind the throne for the past four years. Frankly, if Doug Ford was the brains, it is not much of a guess as to why things were getting derailed so often. Doug Ford is the abrasive one. And it is almost sad to say it but he actually lacks the political savvy of his younger brother.

This is not to say that Rob Ford is out of the picture. Rob is now running for the less demanding role of councillor in his old ward in Etobicoke. Of course there might have to be some surgery along the way but he is counting on what he calls Ford Nation to keep him elected. Nobody has heard officially what the young nephew thinks of this but he has been relegated to a role as school trustee. Most conservatives in Ontario consider that a holding position until a more prestigious opening comes along. Nobody really knows enough about him to care.

Mayoralty candidate Olivia Chow was fastest to the microphones shedding crocodile tears over poor Rob Ford. Mind you the very thought of Doug Ford in the mayor’s chair would bring tears to any clear thinking person’s eyes. In her usually stilted way of speaking, Chow said all she needed to say about how much she is going to miss having Rob Ford to kick around.

It was a pleasure to hear candidate John Tory make it clear that he was not impressed with the idea of Doug Ford stepping into the mayoralty race. He was polite about it but he thought that Doug Ford had made the point well that he was looking forward to getting back to the family business. Mr. Tory sounded confident that the voters would help Doug Ford return to the family business in short order.

But what is interesting about this business of politics is you really wonder what else can happen in this crazy campaign. Maybe Toronto Council can get back to the business of running the city in the next year. We will just have to find some new hobbies for the Toronto news media.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

Quebec is not Scotland.

Friday, September 12th, 2014

A week from now we will have the results of a close referendum in Scotland. And the ‘No’ side is worried. Sorry guys, it is too late now to recognize the problems. While we still expect a narrow margin for the ‘No’ side, it is emotions that seem to be running away with the day. And as much as the separatists in Quebec would like to equate it with their situation, there is less of a lesson for Quebec than you would think.

We have made the point before that Scotland is a country with thousands of years of sometimes rocky relationships with those who live to their south. Quebec has never been and is not a country. It is an integral part of Canada. Scotland does not have to separate. It can actually have as much autonomy as it wishes or needs. And the realistic Scot recognizes that Scotland benefits more as part of the larger empire. The only problem is Scottish nationalism is emotional and you best not discount it.

Quebec nationalism is tribal and held together by language. That has always been the most destructive of motivations. While the sporadic resentment is promoted by the fluently bilingual elite of notables, it plays havoc with the less educated Québécois, promoting bigotry and resentment of the ‘square-head’ English. They ignore the strengths of English and French working together that created this country. They dishonour the relationship that brought commerce and opportunity to Quebec. They need to remember that it was the combined strengths of the English and the French that built Montreal into the business centre of Canada but that leadership was lost to Toronto as the English were driven from their Quebec homes in an increasingly volatile environment promoted by ignorance in two languages.

In a shrinking world, those who pander to a false nationalism are out of step with reality. In a world banding together to promote trade and economic growth, we need new alliances and new levels of trust. We all seek to be part of a larger reality.

Scotland has built a solid position as part of Great Britain. It has a large share of the benefits. While it has the right to self determination, it would be foolish to withdraw from a winning combination that has been built over centuries.

Quebec, on the other hand, would win no benefits from a jilted Canada. In independence, the province would be isolated and alone as a quaint anachronism in a modern world. Quebec cannot grow if it cuts off its Canadian roots.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me

The Hair hosts history.

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

It was like a proud father announcing triplets. It was the wife, who is nowhere to be seen who did the heavy lifting, but here is the Hair, chest busting the buttons on his perfect suit, making the announcement. Yes, Canadians have found one of the famed Franklin ships that disappeared in Canada’s frigid Arctic waters over 150 years ago. In failing to find the fabled North West Passage Franklin went down in British sea annals like Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. ‘Jolly good show old chap. Tough luck, it killed you.’

While we deride the Hair for his late summer sojourns in the Arctic, there really is more reality than three electoral seats to be won. Canada has a responsibility for the protection and preservation of that part of the world. The melting ice under global warming is changing the Arctic and there is far more than just polar bears that are endangered.

One of the picture opportunities for the photographers and camera crews of the Hair’s expedition this year was the pseudo launching of a small submersible used to explore the sea bed. It was one of those devices with its high resolution cameras that showed us the remains of what must be one of Franklin’s ships. The joke on the scientists was that the ship was found much further south than where the scientists thought they should search. In fact it was much closer to where the Hair held his photo op.

It is sad though that the Hair has enabled the continued search for the Franklin ships while tightening the purse strings on Parks Canada that has been the government’s agency for the search. It took the combination of a public-private funding to keep the search going. It is only by accident that the Hair was able to make the announcement of the find a year before what might be his last election as Prime Minister.

It really was important that the world news media could acknowledge that the find was a Canadian accomplishment. They have had very little positive to report from Canada in recent years. The Hair should have been passing out cigars.

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Copyright 2014 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to peter@lowry.me